Articles | Volume 12, issue 1
29 Oct 2015
 | 29 Oct 2015

Variability of atmospheric circulation patterns associated with large volume changes of the Baltic Sea

A. Lehmann and P. Post

Abstract. Salinity and stratification in the deep basins of the Baltic Sea are linked to the occurrence of Major Baltic Inflows (MBIs) of higher saline water of North Sea origin, which occur sporadically and transport higher saline and oxygenated water to deeper layers. Since the mid-1970s, the frequency and intensity of MBIs have decreased. They were completely absent between February 1983 and January 1993. However, in spite of the decreasing frequency of MBIs, there was no obvious decrease of larger Baltic Sea volume changes (LVCs). A LVC is defined by a total volume change of at least 100 km3. LVCs can be identified from the sea level changes at Landsort which is known to represent the mean sea level of the Baltic Sea very well. Strong inflows leading to LVCs are associated to a special sequence of atmospheric circulation patterns. Our analysis based on Jenkinson-Collison circulation (JCC) types confirms that most effective inflows occur if about a month before the main inflow period, eastern air flow with anticyclonic vorticity over the western Baltic prevails. These conditions reduce the mean sea level of the Baltic Sea and lead to an increased saline stratification in the Belt Sea area. An immediate period of strong to very strong westerly winds trigger the inflow and force LVCs/MBIs. The lack of MBIs coincide with a negative trend of eastern types and a parallel increase of western type JCCs.